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Deloitte Global report reveals promising outlook for M&A activity for chemical industry in 2021

  • M&A activity is expected to accelerate as the global economy recovers and chemical companies search for growth in the new year.
  • Investments in sustainability will continue to gain momentum in 2021 and future years as this becomes increasingly important to the chemical industry and the investment community.

NEW YORK, NY, USA, 29 March 2021— Deloitte Global’s 2021 Chemical Industry Mergers and Acquisitions Outlook (2021 Outlook) anticipates mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity will be an important growth mechanism as chemical companies recover and look to grow in 2021. While the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a decline in M&A activity and uncertainty for the broader economic environment, there are signs for optimism in these early months of 2021.

This year’s outlook notably includes the results of Deloitte Global’s inaugural Chemical M&A Survey, which assessed sentiments from chemical executives regarding the M&A market and their company priorities. The survey polled 35 chemical company executives across sectors and geographies between September 10 and November 3, 2020, revealing early unanimous positivity in the M&A outlook for 2021. While these responses send a clear signal that acquisitions will be a focus in 2021, executives are also expected to prioritise organic growth and digitisation efforts.

“The chemical industry was certainly not immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, there is an overwhelming positive M&A outlook for 2021 from chemical executives,” says Deloitte Global Energy, Resources & Industrials Financial Advisory leader Dan Schweller. “Deloitte expects this optimistic mindset to continue as the industry looks to focus on making sustainable investments in the years ahead.”

One trend the 2021 Outlook sees shaping the M&A landscape is the heightened focus on transactions, alliances and initiatives that align with the recent uptick in sustainability commitments and recognise the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) to investors. Companies can also expect additional due diligence in M&A transactions focussed on the carbon footprint and sustainability practices of potential transaction partners.

Despite decreases in deal volume over the past several years, many of the roadblocks that slowed deal-making are starting to resolve. Since many governments allowed companies in the chemical industry to remain open throughout the pandemic, executives have gained a better understanding of how the COVID-19 environment will impact the market and their forecasts. Private equity and other financial investors will continue to remain a crucial factor in this industry. The outlook in 2021 remains optimistic, especially as the total volume of transactions in the last four months of 2020 exceeded that from 2019.

“The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and a strong back half of 2020 in total volume of transactions points to a promising future for the chemical industry,” says Deloitte US Chemical M&A leader Philip Hueber. “It is very possible the M&A market could return to pre-2020 levels in 2021 if broader economic recovery from the pandemic continues.”

The following are snapshots of M&A activity by geography, as outlined in the 2021 Outlook:

  • The United States saw a historically low-volume M&A market in 2020, though it showed signs of building momentum in the second half of 2020 that should continue in 2021. As economic uncertainty remains, companies with strong balance sheets will likely continue to take advantage of opportunities in the market.
  • China was significantly impacted by the pandemic with declines in deal volume and value. Foreign investments remain robust and 2021 might see an increasing number of cross-border investments.
  • The United Kingdom withstood a modest decline in M&A activity when compared to other geographies. The uptick in carve-out transactions, the post-Brexit deal and vaccine rollout is setting a promising backdrop for cheaper debt and private equity cash that could lead to potential increases in 2021 M&A activity.
  • When compared to other countries, Germany is well-poised for recovery. Signs of rebounding became more prominent in the latter half of 2020 with a continued focus on growth in core businesses and end-markets. Upcoming M&A transactions in specialty and fine chemicals are likely to intensify through 2021 if economic recovery continues.
  • India had a strong 2020 performance despite the pandemic and is expected to grow on sustained performance as disposable income rises and urbanisation, among other consumer factors, create an ideal investment climate. The chemical industry could see a rebound in M&A activity in terms of volume as well as value in 2021.
  • The Netherlands also retained a strong 2020 M&A activity that is positioning the country for an active chemical M&A market in the year to come.
  • In Japan, the pandemic triggered widespread economic concerns that drove a hesitant M&A appetite in 2020. However, the back-half of 2020 showed promising momentum, though some may still be hesitant to carry out larger or transformational outbound acquisitions.
  • Brazil is still expected to see increased M&A activity, though economic challenges such as volatile inflation and exchange rate fluctuations may be of concern. However, the market points to an optimistic scenario for chemical M&A activity in Brazil as transactions have increased since 2019.